Friday, 28 March 2014

Katen no Shiro (2009)

So, a friend of mine linked me the subbed version of this movie and I had to ignore whatever else I was doing to watch it!
This is a smart way to get through a busy schedule! --So now the only obvious thing that I can do is writing a review about it here!
So, Katen no Shiro (translated as Castle under fiery skies) is the adaptation of a novel by the same name by Yamamoto Kenichi.
The story is about how the Okada clan of carpenters and their chief, Okabe Mataemon, sacrified much of themselves so to make the wish of Oda Nobunaga come true, as the building of the Azuchi castle becomes a metaphor for the bulding of Japan.

The movie is directed by Mitsutoshi Tanaka, and the lead role of Mataemon is played by the charismatic and expressive Nishida Toshiyuki.
I was impressed by the acting of Nishida, he truly shone through the whole movie because of his peculiar features and how well he fit the role of the inspired, faithful artisan.

Oda Nobunaga was played by a quite decent Shiina Keppei, who portrayed an energic and athletic (and mustache-less!) Nobunaga in the first part of the movie, but also presented us a good rendition of the wily conqueror with no time to waste in the second part of the movie.
It wasn't a performance that made me cry and scream, but all in all one can say that it was a pretty decent portrayal of our favourite daimyo.
In the end we're also given a moment of deep thought by Nobunaga, where he realized that if building a castle was the same as building a country, he had to learn the art of patience and humility to become a proper ruler... To be honest, I had the impression that that last scene was placed there just to give us a positive rendition of Nobunaga after he drove his carpenters to pain and sacrifices so to follow his orders to finish the castle in just three years... I mean, in the end he had his castle done in three years, right? And the carpenters were happy and proud of it, right? So where was patience needed? And I don't even want to consider the deal with humility--!

The movie is constituted by three main parts. The first and last parts are about the construction of the castle, the engineering problems that the carpenters had to face, and those are the most interesting and inspiring parts of the movie.

The scenographies and photography were simply marvellous, and I was truly in awe when the castle was starting to get its shape: all the foundations, the pillars and the visualization of the structure were indeed breathtaking.

The second part of the movie, the one in the middle, was all about the misfortunes and sacrifices that Mataemon and his family had to go through to make Nobunaga's wish come true: it's a never ending sequel of unfortunate events that made you seriously wonder about the whole point of the movie.
I can understand the need to make us sympathize with the hard work of the carpenters, and how much of a big deal was constructing a castle in that period (expecially one like this!), but seriously! First, Jinbei, the shady lumberjack that befriended Mataemon, had to die because he undirectly betrayed his lord, then it's the turn of the young Ichizo, when Mataemon's wife started to cough blood I was already at my limit, but no, we needed some curse from a rock and then even the deaths of pretty Une and Kumazo--

--But Mataemon, a supreme example of "Nihon Danshi", had no time to waste with tears and melanchony: he has a castle to take care of!
And so, as everyone is mourning their deads on a stormy night, he's back to the construction site, facing the tragedy of a technical error.
But of course he couldn't do anything alone: proud of their role as builders, the whole clan is back to help out, and with the typical sense of self-sacrifice and duty of Japanese people, everyone manages to save the day and the stability of the castle.

As you could have guessed from my words, I have mixed feelings about this movie.
I loved the historical reconstruction (also if some bits were kinda naive), expecially when it came to the engineering and logistic deals; I also enjoyed to see such a strong and plausible portrayal of "Chief Okabe" and all the other workforces involved in the project (see the famous Ano masons), but I could have done without that "emotional manierism" typical of this kind of productions, where you have to have some random people dying to suggest dramaticity-- But that's the Japanese "way of the movie", and it can't be helped.

Instead of all that useless family drama, I would have enjoyed to see other tasty details: more rivalry among the involved parts, a more active role of the actual supervisors of the project (Niwa Nagahide at first, then Kimura Jirozaemon, both portrayed in the movie as the two assholes who forced the Ano guys to remove the marble rock) and I would have liked to see some collaboration with the other artists taking care of the project, like the tile-makers of Nara and the Kano atelier, but I realize that it would have been a bit too much to handle, with the risk of going off-topic.

So, yes, a nice movie indeed, that unfortunately showed some naivety from the book's plot.

Another good point is the scene that shows us the "dreamy lanscape" of the lanterns set to Azuchi and its grounds:
--What a beautiful scenery ^_^ !


  1. Prima di tutto ti faccio i miei complimenti per questa nuova,splendida iniziativa che è questo blog. Sono riuscita a rimettermi in pari (finalmente!) e devo dire che hai avuto davvero una splendida idea. Lo seguirò con passione.
    Sono inoltre felice che il film sia stato un gradito suggerimento. Condivido molte delle tue opinioni espresse, come ad esempio la forse eccessiva drammatizzazione di alcune scene ma l'ho trovato nella sua interezza piacevole e interessante. Anche l'attore di Nobunaga non mi è particolarmente dispiaciuto anche se devo ammettere che ho visto interpretazioni migliori.

    1. Grazie, sono felice che ti piaccia l'idea :DDD !

      Sì, il film mi è piaciuto nonostante quel treno di tragedie che si sono susseguite nella parte centrale-- Mi sarebbe piaciuto vedere ancora più "artigianato all'opera", ma forse sarebbe stato chiedere troppo :D

      Dopo aver visto il film mi sono ulteriormente informata, e mi ha molto intrigato il fatto che tra gli artigiani di Nara che si occupavano delle tegole ci fosse un cinese :D


  2. ... Um, you might want to set the comment settings to that it's not Italian. I don't know what they say except for the blue "publica" button that probably means "submit" O___O

    And hi, it's me again.

    I also watched this movie a long time ago, because of suggestions from Samurai Archives people XD

    It's a decent movie, I guess. I also thought it had too much fluff and over-dramatization that makes my eye roll and think this is stupid, but... it wasn't THAT bad.

    I loved the contrast of the younger Nobu and the older Nobu in the movie. He actually said "Look, this is a bomb! Want to see it explode?" or something to that effect when presenting the globe to his subjects. That was so funny. I always loved that wild side of his. And then there's the serious and harsh older Nobu who has his own reasons for what he's doing and that's cool too :D

    1. Yeee, thank you for the comment :D

      Ooh, I left it in Italian 'cause I like to have the date spelled in Italian format :/ ... On top of it, I have no idea of a generic box for comments look, since I have a Google account and the box for a member is quite simple... I'll try to fix that!

      I agree with you, that over-emphasis and random drama is really unbearable, but if you are familiar with Japanese movies, you should know that they are all like this XD
      Of course there are some exception, but that's their general line with historical movies... I would like to watch more though, but or I find them unsubbed or I can't find anything :/
      Is there some other SUBBED movie that you could suggest me :D ? ...Besides Kagemusha XD

      Yes, I liked that too x'DD An unconventional Nobu who can laugh about something that usually scares people-- It's an image that I'm fond of!

    2. Yay, its not Italian anymore!! XD

      Egh, I really don't like the scenes when Mataemon was trying to get the 2000-year-old tree because it's too much drama. But it was tolerable, at least.

      ... I don't know that many movies myself, so I don't have much to suggest. A lot of the good ones aren't available for streaming/free download. Not unless you want to see "Nobunaga is a woman in disguise and loved Nagamasa and Akechi" (Onna Nobunaga) =___=

      I recently bought this movie called "Shogun's Samurai" about the Yagyuu clan in a Japanese event, but I haven't watched it so I don't know if it's good or bad.

      The new movie "Kiyosu Conference" is subbed, but you have to register to the streaming websites or something for free versions. It's... interesting... I don't recommend this movie unless you can stand seeing bad jokes and Nobukatsu being such an idiot >___<

      The movie "Ask this of Rikyu" is also subbed somewhere, but not free because it's also new. You can buy it here:

      And the trailer is here:

      The person playing Nobu, is kind of pretty XD He only shows up for a short while, but I think it's a nice portrayal of his artistic appreciation.

  3. come posso scaricare questo film ? grazie

    1. Non l'ho scaricato, l'ho guardato in streaming, comunque per questo genere di domande c'è Google XD !